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Muse's Books

Book 32: Who is Ana Mendieta? by Christine Redfern

Book 32: Who is Ana Mendieta?.
Author: Christine Redfern, 2011. Foreword by Lucy R. Lippard. Illustrated by Caro Caron.
Genre: Graphic Non-Fiction. Biography. Art History. Feminism.
Other Details: Hardback. 56 pages.

This fiery account of Ana Mendieta is also a snapshot of the turbulent times in which she lived. In exile from revolutionary Cuba, Ana Mendieta found in the 1960s US another kind of social upheaval: Frida Khalo was finally being appreciated as an artist, not just a muse; Valerie Solanas wrote her manifesto, then shot Andy Warhol; Carolee Schneemann performed nude and pulled a feminist scroll out of her vagina. And Ana Mendieta began creating what she called “earth-body art”, revolutionary work that explored issues of gender and cultural identity. In 1985, at the height of her success, she plunged to her death from the window of the New York City apartment she shared with her husband, artist Carl Andre. He was tried and acquitted of her murder. - from Christine Redfern's website.

This short, powerful work of graphic non-fiction serves as an introduction to the life and work of Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta. This is the first in a series of cultural biographies titled 'Blind Spot Graphics' published by the Feminist Press that will feature “radicals who have changed the culture and who lost their lives or place in history in the process.”

The text is almost entirely made up of quotes, from Mendieta and the other cultural figures who inhabit its pages. There are also a number of documents relating to her death, including a transcript of the 911 call received by the police and extracts from their reports. Caro Caron's illustrations, many of them were inspired by Mendieta's art, are powerful, strikingly beautiful and at times disturbing. A strong streak of anger runs through the book about violence against women, Mendieta's death and the events that took place in its wake as well as the way her work has since been marginalized.

I was first introduced to Ana Mendieta's life and work as a case study in a Modern Art course offered by The Open University. I was immediately captivated by her passion and its expression. Given my own interest in the Goddess religion and art that utilizes elements from the natural world, I was interested in knowing more beyond the material offered by the course. Since then I've acquired a few books about her. Hearing of this publication, I was curious how her story would be told in a graphic format. I am so glad I bought it, as despite its short length so much is packed into its pages and, as I said above, the illustrations are quite stunning. I was also impressed by the articulate introduction written by Lucy R. Lippard.

Art: Her Body, Her Self - a New York Times article from 2004 that I posted to my art_lover journal

Who is Ana Mendieta? - Redfern's web page. Links at bottom of page lead to some images from the book.
Tags: art, biography, feminist, graphic novel

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